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David Poland

By David Poland

2012 Top Ten…. plus…

It’s been a good year for movies. Not always in America, though Sundance 2012 gave us some very good and challenging pictures, especially docs. Foreign-language films did well by movie lovers in the spring and certainly through Cannes. The summer movie season was uneven, but seemed to satisfy an unusual number of unsatisfiable people. And the fall was loaded with very good films.

I have listed 35 films… which leaves out a lot of films I really liked. And that’s before removing Toronto movies that haven’t been released. I am also doing a doc Top Ten, leaving all docs off the #11-#35 lists (there’s one in my Top Ten). I could easily go another 20 on films I liked, but just don’t think of when using the word “best.”

For me, the hardest decision is right at the top. Two movies that couldn’t one much more different. One, an intimate journey to a natural death. The other, an epic thriller of unusual intelligence and insight. I finally decided on a tie between these two remarkable films, listed in alphabetical order.

1. (tie) Amour – Michael Haneke has become the The Great Man of world cinema. His films challenge audiences bit only to examine big ideas, but in most cases, to unravel just what the question the film is asking. Amour has a small mystery at the end, but the journey to that moment is so intense and intimate that it won’t start fights at dinner after the film… just shared ideas between people who have been stripped bare of their artifice. Perhaps the greatest magic trick of all is that we experience over a year of a shared life and it just evaporates over the running time, as real life does. This is one of those soulful films that can be placed amongst the list of greats, not a fun picture to experience over and over again, but absolutely undeniable in its power, finesse and humanity.

1. (tie) Zero Dark Thirty – Comparisons to Lawrence of Arabia are not inappropriate. Boal & Bigelow deliver a movie so epic, so deeply satisfying, so raw and real feeling that the immediate reaction amongst those who fear the subtext that some could take from the film’s fact-based story that they exploded with rage. If it wasn’t so frustrating to see the first de-euphemised studio-level feature about the War On Terror, it would be a huge compliment to the film and the filmmakers. Of course, I consider this kind of thinking about a film—pretty much any film—to be idiotic… not unlike the rage from a religious group over the representation of their chosen deity in anything less than a pure format. What ZD30 has shown regarding the issue of torture, more than anything else, is that people with politic agendas would like to whitewash history in retrospect. Relatively contemporaneous reports on the issue suggest that the film is dead accurate in regards to the issue.

But a great movie is not the sum of its political hubbub. The torture in Zero Dark Thirty is required viewing, especially for those who shy away from the idea of witnessing such barbarism. It is what We, The United States of America, chose to do as a matter of policy for a time. It was not rogue stupidity or excess. And as the film shows, it is most often quite ineffective and frustrating. And now and again, a sliver of value emerges. The 2 hours of the film in which one real-life character doggedly pursues that sliver and engages an entire organization to built the case she thinks can lead somewhere important is remarkable. This is not just her journey. It is a ride through a complex process, many dead ends, changes of tactic and strategy, lives lost in the same pursuit, politics, seeming defeat, and ultimately, through a decade of hard work by scores of people, an event that changed the world… if not in reality, then in perception.

A movie that can entertain wildly while challenging the audience to think about its sense of the world and to acknowledge the messy ramifications that decisions made to look simple so as to be sold politically… this is a rare and wonderful thing. I don’t take offense at the many bright people who would like to see each of the big issues in this film explored in greater depth from more angles. But that was not what this film was meant to be. It is the embodiment of what we, as film lovers, think of as “70s movies.” It is a masterpiece.

3. Rust & Bone – I tend to think of Jacques Audiard as a nastier Bob Zemeckis… a master of genre with something more to say underneath the obvious entertainment of it all. I was introduced to Audiard via Baxter (tag line: Beware the dog that talks), back in 1990. He was a co-writer. He wouldn’t direct his first feature until his early 40s, with 1994’s See How They Fall, which, befitting the season, starred Jean-Louis Trintignant. He’s made 5 films since and 3, by my count, are legitimate masterpieces. Rust & Bone got off to a slightly rocky start at Cannes last May. Prison dramas, like Audiard’s last film, A Prophet, are one of the genres in which critics allow themselves to luxuriate. Romantic dramas, not so much. And indeed, for all the genre conventions included in R&B, it is a story about love. It also breaks the conventions of all the genres it touches – hardluck guy, fight movie, hot chick finds inner beauty, tragic accident, girl finds animal, handicap to overcome, lowlife learns to be responsible parent, melodrama, hard-R sex flick, dark comedy – creating its own brutal, romantic, sweet, bitter tale that is unlike anything every before.

Marion Cotillard gets the showy role and does her best work ever, seeming more comfortable in her own language and playing perhaps her most grounded character. And the Ginger to her Fred – who is really the lead of the film – is Matthias Schoenaerts, who was so great in Bullhead last year. He may have the harder role. He is a big, strong, good-looking guy who screws up in virtually every way possible, often intentionally. Fr the movie to work, you have to be on his side and stay on his side. And Audiard loads the deck against him. Still, he keeps the audience connected, not unlike the way Clooney can… but this is a better role than Clooney has every had (the closest being Michael Clayton). Lots of great supporting performances, but especially Corinne Masiero, who has one of her brother’s natural advantages in the story, but manages a dogged kindness that makes this one of the great supporting performances.

4. The Master – I love a great puzzle movie. This one follows in the steps of Eyes Wide Shut, both in its intricacies and the frustration it offers most audiences. Paul Thomas Anderson is still in pursuit of his inner Kubrick. He’s getting closer. This film kind of reminds me of the step or two before Crimes & Misdemeanors for Woody Allen, who was looking for the perfect balance of his two sides… but this is more accomplished than those Woody experiments. I still feel that Boogie Nights is PTA’s most complete work. But it is a fairly conventional narrative by the standards that he works in and the Kubrick standard. All of his films since have been more complex conceptually, but he hasn’t found the combination of deep complexity and audience accessibility – at least on a big cult level – that makes Kubrick so singular (and The Coens, who also work that turf, so consistently fascinating).

I believe Freddie and Dodd to be two sides of one brain, maturing to the point where Dodd (and his wife) decide Freddie must be forever banished. This isn’t a clever trick, like Fight Club, but something far less literal. But there are plenty smart people who interpret it differently. I think the nude party, followed by the marital masturbation, is defining. If you believe the nudity is real, you see the movie in a very different way than those of us who believe we are seeing Dodd slipping into his inner Freddie.

But puzzle though it is, Anderson is also crafting, with his amazing team, every shot of the film the way a master paints. Each image is a stroke of the brush, not just a story being told. For that reason, this film is too special to put any lower on my list this year.

5. The Grey – I just love this movie. Joe Carnahan is a madman, a guy’s guy, and, as it turns out, a deep thinker. Another movie about life and death, The Grey is the most conventional genre piece on this list of ten. But every time you think you are getting “one of those movies,” Carnahan raises the bar. One of Liam Neeson’s all-time best performances, we feel the cold, the fear, the exhilaration of being challenged by death… a manly tale in the best way. This is the kind of movie George C. Scott might have made in his prime with a director who understood all that beautiful rage.

6. Lincoln – As unSpielberg a Spielberg movie as we have seen since sections of A.I., this is a true collaboration between writer and director, with Tony Kushner’s script palpably at the core of the work. There is some sentiment here, but mostly, it is a smart, scholarly, demanding work that reminds us of how much Lincoln’s story is still the story of leading America. Not much but the costumes has changed in over 150 years. The craftsmanship is impeccable. And in Daniel Day-Lewis, Spielberg found an actor who loses himself in the way we remember young DeNiro and Pacino and Hoffman… but even more so. DDL is rarely given the chance to show off.

7. The Gatekeepers – This year’s great doc, Dror Moreh’s second. isn’t a ground breaker in doc filmmaking. It’s not the most beautiful. It’s not the most complex. But like Deliver Us From Evil a few years ago, Moreh delivers on-camera interviews that burn the house down. Great issue docs by Kirby Dick and Eugene Jarecki this year… but those are big subjects by terrific directors. This is once-in-a-lifetime stuff. The leaders of Israel’s top security organization, the Shin Bet, on camera, telling their history and the organization’s history with Palestinian relationship, expressing their passion and love for the State of Israel… but ultimately expressing a pretty much unanimous perspective on the future of this relationship from the highest levels of the Israeli government.

8. The Perks of Being A Wallflower – A kind of antidote to Twilight, Perks captures the ebb and flow of coming of age in a way we haven’t seen in quite a while. This is one of those movies that surprises with its unwillingness to do what you expect, but without seeming to try to surprise you. Terrific performances that melt into the storytelling. Strong work from a first-time director, who also wrote the book and the screenplay. This is just one of those sticky movies that everyone wishes for each time they go into a movie theater.

9. Ted – Crude, rude, and socially unacceptable. Sorry, purists, but this is the comedy of the year. It’s ingenious, it’s insane, it’s shockingly believable, and mostly, it’s just plain funny. I am still unhappy that the writer/director/co-star allowed himself from very 2012 references. They will age and get in the way of classic status for the film. But this was one of those very, very rare films whose idea was not destroyed in the process of making it. “What if a kid promised to be best friends forever with his teddy bear and it came true… and 30 years later, there are consequences?” Bingo.

10. Cloud Atlas – This one is a matter of taste and skill and more feeling than intellect. It’s a universal opera, interested in so many of the issues of human life, love, fear, freedom, and death. But it’s the way The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer put it all together that is truly revolutionary. I doubt the filmmakers feel this way, but I imagine this film could be re-cut 100 different ways and still work. It’s like listening to great music, open to interpretation by the player, but somehow, in some unclear way, sticks to your spirit if you allow it a place. In time, it will, I think, be one of those films that turns up on your viewing portal at any point in the film, and floods your senses in an undeniable way.

I don’t think you are stupid or constipated if you don’t love or even like this film. As much as any film on this list, it speaks to the evolution of the motion picture experience. Filmmakers are making films with less interest in, as we have called it for a few decades, four quadrants. It doesn’t have to be everyone’s taste. But for those whose taste it is, it is sweet, sweet nectar.

MY NEXT FIVE (in alphabetical order): After Lucia, Looper, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, This is 40

MY NEXT FIVE (in alphabetical order): Argo, Django Unchained, End of Watch, Killer Joe, Killing Them Softly

AND ALSO SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED (in alphabetical order): The Amazing Spider-Man, Anna Karenina, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Brave, The Dark Knight Rises, The Deep Blue Sea, Flight, Haywire, The Intouchables, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Moonrise Kingdom, Paranorman, Prometheus, Take This Waltz, Wreck-It-Ralph.

MY DOCUMENTARY TOP TEN (in alphabetical order): Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Chasing Ice, The Gatekeepers, The House I Live In, How To Survive A Plague, The Imposter, The Invisible War, Paul Williams Still Alive, The Queen of Versailles,West of Memphis,

116 Responses to “2012 Top Ten…. plus…”

  1. Djiggs says:

    What the frak!!! No Holy Motors!?!

  2. anghus says:



  3. pj says:

    Ted? I don’t care how much money it made. Blecch.

  4. KMS says:

    Killing Them Softly is one of the most underrated films of the year (in my opinion, which is all that matters).

  5. MarkVH says:

    Thought you didn’t love Django, yet it still ends up in your Top 20? There wasn’t another doc that might have taken its place?

    Anyway, good list. I still have a shit-ton of movie watching to do.

  6. Mike Ock says:

    I am impressed that Poland has Perks, Ted, and The Grey in his Top 10. I personally loathed The Master, Lincoln, and Cloud Atlas, and haven’t seen the other 4 in his Top 10.

    My Top 10

    1. Django Unchained
    2. Killer Joe
    3. End of Watch
    4. Perks of Being A Wallflower
    5. The Five Year Engagement
    6. The Grey
    7. Ted
    8. Pitch Perfect
    9. Flight
    10. 21 Jump Street

  7. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Anyone else think The Perks of Being A Wallflower is the most overrated movie of 2012. A phony and forced work that rang hollow throughout and featured impossible to believe relationships and a ridiculous third act deus ex-machina.

  8. Daniella Isaacs says:

    I just don’t get TED. It was 2012’s HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, a guy film that otherwise good male critics inexplicably liked. And yeah, no HOLY MOTORS? BEAST OF THE SOUTHERN WILD under KILLER JOE? I am glad you had the guts to offer a nod to PROMETHEUS. Okay, it doesn’t make a lot of sense dramaturgically and in terms of basic science, but neither does Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, and like that film, PROMETHEUS is visually astonishing and thematically resonant.

  9. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    There seems to be one TED each year that wins critics over. The Hangover felt like that as well. Guys with wives can tell you which ones they are. They’re the films that we think they won’t like but they end up enjoying. The most underrated guy film of the year was easily THAT’S MY BOY, a deliriously scruffy, scattershot but funny work that most detested.

  10. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Any film that infuriates geekdom as much as Prometheus does gets my vote for best of the year immediately. Yet again, angry adolescents bringing hefty baggage into the cinema with them and throwing their Alien figurines with the bathwater the minute things don’t go their way,

  11. WG says:

    Flight’s listed twice, and I’m not sure which alphabet that doc list is ordered after…

  12. Smith says:

    Wait, there are people who think the party nudity in The Master is real?

  13. Ray Pride says:

    WG: now fixed, thanks.

  14. greg says:

    My Top 10;

    Take This Waltz
    Holy Motors
    The Hobbit
    A Late Quartet
    Perks of Being A Wallflower
    Rust and Bone
    Stories We Tell

    Just Below the Ten:
    Killing Them Softly
    Celeste and Jesse

    Not-Guilty Pleasures
    The Divide, Red Dawn, Silent Hill:Revelation (mostly for the awesome 3D), Resident Evil:Retribution (mostly for the outstanding 3D)

    Waiting for Amour and Zero Dark Thirty to open in Toronto.

    I saw 228 movies this year.

  15. anghus says:


    my problems with Prometheus have nothing to do with any fanboy reverence to alien, a movie i’ve seen maybe twice. In fact, i don’t know a lot of people who bitched about Prometheus due to affiliations to the Alien franchise or perceived quality in reference to those films. Hell, it’s still better than Alien 4 or either Alien v Predator movie…

    Prometheus is exhibit A in the new style of screenwriting where the creative forces dont believe you have to explain everything in a movie or even justify the crazy logic they present. The laughable DVD campaign for the film QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED just perfectly illustrated what a dumb movie Prometheus was, because it didnt answer any questions. It’s hard not to blame Lindeloff who basically sheparded Lost into six season by piling on questions that were never resolved. The guy doesn’t seem to believe that every blank needs to be filled in.

    In Prometheus, like zero blanks are filled in. It’s just bad storytelling on a fundamental level. And yes, it looked amazing, and yes every dollar they spent you could see onscreen, but it was such a dumb movie populated with dumb characters that ended up telling us a small fraction of a larger story. It’s a piss poor excuse for a movie. All that effort made to tell such a pointless story that never gets close to a resolution.

    Fuck Alien or it’s ties to it. It’s just sub par filmmaking.

  16. sanj says:

    awesome rant anghus –

    comicbookgirl19 spends 10 minutes on the crazy logic of the movie – stuff you might not have thought about at all

    i did like what she had to say more than most movie critics…and out of the huge number of 2 hour movies out there this one didn’t bore me .

    it’s 10 minutes – contains major spoilers .

    Prometheus Mysteries Analysis

  17. christian says:

    TED and THE HANGOVER allow literate film critics to feign regular guy-dom.

    PROMETHEUS: Future scientists act like a creepy alien worm is a cuddly dog needing a bone. As Harlan would say, “Enormous Dumb.” No action figures included.

  18. Rashad says:

    Prometheus is great. Fuck the haters.

  19. berg says:

    good call on After Lucia … when the word on that film gets out people will want to see it, a real button pusher

  20. Lex says:

    Screenwriting is the most boring criticism of any movie. Movies are A VISUAL EXPERIENCE. Sometimes I barely even like listening to dialogue and I NEVER enjoy following plot points. Movies are about EMOTION, not storytelling sense.

    Argento didn’t make storytelling sense, Malick doesn’t need it, Lynch doesn’t need 1-2-3 PLOT POINTS and ARCS and EXPLANATIONS.

    I think on the Internet, EVERYONE on movie blogs– they can’t necessarily score music or LIGHT SHOTS or know about F stops and kelvin, they don’t do THEATER or standup, they probably don’t know Avid; But like EVERYONE, they ALL think they can “write a screenplay.”

    That’s why so many long-winded dismissals of good movies are blowhards hung up on STORY and THE SCREENPLAY, both because it’s treated as this NOBLE ART of downtrodden geniuses, and because anybody clocking into a comments section think they CAN write a script. That’s why a movie as brilliantly composed and lit with shadings like PROMETHEUS, you never get any VISUAL CRITICISM or ANALYSIS, nobody even has a keen enough eye to discern a “Black Rain shot” from a “Hannibal shot” from a “1492 shot,” all of which are all over the place in the movie’s visual scheme.

    But everyone’s an authority on the SCRIPT. Like, do you REALLY CARE about PLOT POINTS as you’re watching a movie? It just seems like such an unimaginative, cutthroat way to approach film.

  21. Lex says:

    The montage of Sandler, Samberg and Vanilla Ice out wreaking havoc with Van Halen “Dance Night Away” (or was it “Standing on Top of the World”? They’re the same basic song) is one of 2012’s finer moments. That’s My Boy is occasional genius. But Jack & Jill was just as good last year.

    And Christian never thinks ANY comedy post 1980 that’s even the LEAST bit off-color is funny. Ever. He and Cadavra both, they’re like the P.C. police when it comes to comedy.

  22. leahnz says:

    This has been a weird year for me, I’ve seen fewer movies than usual and it hasn’t exactly been all-time (and I still haven’t seen some of the bfd’s like ZD30), but of what I’ve really liked in no particular order:


    Beasts of the southern wild

    Kill list

    the master

    My own private river

    Seven psychopaths

    the deep

    Good for nothing

    Moonrise kingdom

    Dark blood

    Fantastic fear of everything

    oops, that’s 11. oh well. And I’ve probably forgotten something i really dug, i usually do.

    (as far as disappointments go, ‘prometheus’ was fucking retarded – but you know, go big or go home)

  23. bulldog68 says:

    Happy New Year Leahnz. I haven’t seen most of on your list, but I fell completely in the opposite column on The Master. I came out feeling like I’d just seen one of the worst movies of the year.

  24. StellaPD says:

    So much I have not seen yet. Happy to see The Grey on the list though, which has stuck with me as much or more than anything else I saw in 2012. Holy Motors gets my vote for most overrated of the year. Prometheus has its problems, but I still enjoyed it. Glad I saw it on a big screen. Finally saw Killer Joe over the weekend. Performances are pretty great, but the story is only OK. A little disappointed after all the good notices. Lots of catching up to do now.

  25. anghus says:

    well written lex, but way off the mark.

    JBD wants to blame ‘alien fanboys’ for prometheus trashing, a demographic i have never encountered. i know a lot of people who respect and like the original alien, but if there’s a fan base of super devoted alien fans out there, i’ve never run into them online.

    You want to dismiss criticizing the screenplay as some kind of armchair filmmaker geek thing. That i get, but when your biologist character acts like an eight year old and tries to pet a creepy looking character and your mapping character gets lost, what other part should you criticize.

    And your whole ‘movies should be an experience’ argument is both endearing and naive. Yes, we dont need to nitpick movies to death. But when you pile on questions and never bother to answer any of them, you are detracting from the experience. When you ask “why?” eighty times during the course of the movie, you’ve done a bad job writing the script OR the Director has done a terrible job of translating the script into the finished project.

    And im not talking ‘why’ for everything. I dont need to know why the engineer takes black goo and throws himself into a river. But there are ‘why’ questions that seem almost disrespectful to the audience to not address.

    Like the point of the map that sent them into space in the first place.

    I’ll give you a parallel: Superman Returns. You get a title card in the first ten seconds: Superman went to space for five years. Then he comes back.

    They spend a single solitary line explaining it. He thought Krypton was out there. Sure, it would have been nice to see two minutes of Superman in space, or a minute or two of his motivations for taking off, but they at least have the decency to address it even if it’s glossed over.

    There’s twenty questions in Prometheus that are raised and never even addressed again. That’s bad writing. Even high budget junk like Transformers has a more cohesive sense of logic. Even something that defies logic like the ‘all spark’ is given an explination. Even though the explination often defies basic logic. The thing can bring transformers to life but it can also kill them.

    There is more effort made in Transformers to explain things than Prometheus. Bad writing my friend. I don’t need to know why the Engineers ships are shaped like a horseshoe, but it’d be nice to know why they left a map on Earth.

    Nitpicking to me is stuff like complaining about the girl wearing high heel shoes the entire time in Cloverfield. Sure, it’s hard to believe someone could scale a fallen building in five inch heels, but its not important to the story being presented on screen. Introducing big ideas and never addressing them is not nitpicking. It’s central to the experience.

    Questions will be answered….

    Seriously, that might be the most insulting marketing campaign ever for a movie that provides zero answers.

  26. StellaPD says:

    I’m a pretty diehard fan of the Alien movies (not counting either AVP). Got the Quadrilogy on Blu-ray a few months ago. I don’t think of myself as a fanboy though. I agree with a lot of your Prometheus complaints anghus, but I still found much to enjoy. Maybe I’m going easy on it because I like Alien so much, but for me Prometheus has a lot going for it.

  27. Mark F. says:

    Numerous experts have stated that no useful information was obtained by torture in the bin Laden case. I think Bigelow either deliberately lied or was careless about the issue. I don’t understand why you don’t get this.

  28. anghus says:

    i caught ZD30 yesterday. I was stunned at how overrated this very effective procedural was. Its a good movie, but it never felt like a great movie.

    DP talks about exploring the greater issues as a major criticism. That part doesn’t bother me. Every movie doesn’t need to be an in depth exploration. However, it’s voyeuristic and removed style plus a moral ambivalence to every event made me feel like i was watching a very well shot re-enactment. I never felt like Maya was a person, merely a purpose. Maybe that was the point. Either way i was never engaged with her.

    Again, i liked the movie, but it felt like interconnected moments. The only cohesion was her, and she was given little to do other than push forward. If asked to describe her as a character, the only traits she seemed to have was persistence. I liked the scenes with Pratt and the team. There was one moment where they were playing horseshoes and Chastain laughs at a comment they make. That scene felt so badly needed in a movie that could have used an ounce of humanity to balance the stark inhumanity being displayed.

    I think that’s why the third act was the most effective…


    Bigelow spends a few moments letting the audience get to know Pratt, albeit briefly. He’s got personality. He’s likable. So when you see him kill a woman at the compound, that moment has weight. Its so stark. The most likable guy in the movie shoots a woman in the back with the kind of brutal effeciency someone in his position has to employ. There’s more emotion for me in that one scene than the first two acts with Chastain.

    I did love the opening two minutes. Brilliant way to handle the subject. There are great moments like that, but the movie never felt like a narrative. It felt like a highlight reel.

    I compare it to something like Argo, a movie that took real life events and made it into an effective thrillers. Where ZD30 pulls back and is blunt in it’s approach, Argo added a little bit of cheese to the proceedings and tried to force some added drama to the proceedings.

    To me, ZD30 and Argo represent two distinct types of storytelling. Almost a litmus test for the type of movies people prefer. Do you prefer the deadpan, stark type of story that Bigelow presents in ZD30: unpretentious, direct, and melodrama free? Or do you like Affleck’s more audience friendly traditional film storytelling complete with a runway chase scene at the end for added impact?

    I prefer Argo’s approach. That scene at the end of Argo when the one guy whose name escapes me, goes over the storyboards with the military at the airport. That’s the kind of scene that made me walk away from Argo with a smile on my face. Reality +1. You take something that happened and you make it cinematic. ZD30 seems desperate to remove those elements.

    Which is why i consider Argo a great film and ZD30 a very good film.

  29. Don R. Lewis says:

    I think anghus is spot-on about PROMETHEUS. Granted, I was just disappointed because I was so excited, but the root issue is: it’s a really dumb movie that was written poorly. And I don’t *blame* Lindelof, etc., I just think he was following orders or trying to do (as anghus pointed out) more LOST mojo. I didn’t mind LOST pulling vague, non-answereble moves because there was a week or often longer to think about what was presented before a new episode. The TV model works for stuff like that. Maybe not as a whole (as in, if you sat down to piece together LOST after all the seasons, you’d find a mess) but episodically I think it works.

    As for THE MASTER, man. I thought I loved it when I saw it and wanted to see it again. Then the thought of sitting through it again just felt so boring and unpleasant. I dunno. But now I regret that because the thought of how GREAT it looked on the big screen only to be whittled down to my TV seems like a loss as well.

  30. Shabs says:

    Just rented Trouble with the Curve, which might make the top of my WORST list. Shockingly cliche’d. I heard That’s My Boy is pretty offensively bad, but I won’t bother.

  31. Gus says:

    I still haven’t seen quite a lot of big stuff, including Django, Amour, ZDT, Deep Blue Sea, and This Is Not A Film, so I guess this list is moot. But that won’t stop me from posting! Ah, the internet.

    1. In the Family
    2. Wuthering Heights
    3. The Grey
    4. On the Road
    5. The Master
    6. Ted
    7. Cabin in the Woods
    8. Killer Joe
    9. The Color Wheel
    10. Magic Mike

    Cinematography: Skyfall. Performance: Phoenix in the Master. Direction: PTA.

    To me, it was a great year for watching things. Saw Pulp Fiction in a theater for the first time since its original release, and tons of classics for the first time, too.

  32. movieman says:

    Leah- Good to have you back; you’ve been sorely missed!
    Is the “Dark Blood” you listed the Sluizer film? If so, how does River fare in his final screen performance?
    And is the film “finished” enough in its present form to get a theatrical (or at least dvd) release?
    P.S.= Thanks for giving me the incentive to finally watch my screener of “The Deep,” lol.

  33. Gus says:

    Regarding DRL’s comment about seeing the Master a second time, I was of the same mind. When I walked out of it the first time, I felt it was his weakest film by quite a good margin, but its imagery and the remarkable nuance of Phoenix’s performance really stuck with me, so I went to see it again. Luckily I live near the Arclight in Hollywood and was able to see it in 70mm, very large, each time.

    The unique quality of the film really can’t be denied, and there are so many terrific, disarming scenes that it really has overcome my previous hangups in many ways. But ultimately the script does not work, in my opinion, and in the final scenes I feel basically nothing. I don’t really care about the logic of the plot and I don’t really care for the relationship that is supposedly the core of the movie. And that’s a huge problem. But so much has been accomplished along the way that I know I’ll continue to revisit it when other films have long since come and gone. That, to me, is a big deal, even if I don’t think the Master is close to TWBB or Boogie Nights.

  34. christian says:

    This is what I think lex wrote – the same code repeated ad-infinitum:


    Maybe it’s a warning…

  35. Bulldog68 says:

    I don’t really have a Top Ten, but here are the ones I enjoyed the most this year.

    End Of Watch
    The Grey
    Django Unchained
    The Avengers
    Dark Knight Rises
    21 Jump Street
    Life of Pi
    Cloud Atlas

    Lincoln, Argo and Flight get honorable mentions.
    Have not seen ZD30, Playbook and Les Miz.

    Completely went the opposite way on critical darling The Master.

    Biggest disappointments were Prometheus, Spiderman and Skyfall. Though the visuals in Prometheus and Skyfall were some of the best of the year.

  36. tbunny says:

    The Prometheus screenplay is flawed no doubt, but for me the movie had a wealth of interesting themes that played extremely well on the screen. So if you could tough out the unanswered inanities or faux-mystifications you could get glimpses of an incomparably better movie that gets better as you go on.

  37. movielocke says:

    I love seeing all the forum/comments Holy Motors praise, it’s like waving a giant flag declaring, “I pirate movies and don’t believe in paying artists for their work.” Granted, critics and a teensy, tiny, miniscule fraction of english speakers have seen the film in screenings and festivals or abroad, but odds are the folks who have seen it have seen it illegally. As best I can tell, the film has played two or three US festivals and was released in NYC in October and no where else. So just how have so many US denizens seen it? I hate to presume the worst, but it seems obvious.

    Much props to DP for not posting his list until after 2012 ended, I never take any list seriously that is posted before the end of the year. I always think those critics who post their lists in December ought to use those extra weeks to revisit and expand their field.

    my preliminary top ten of 2012(probably won’t finalize it until May or so)

    1. Brave
    2. Lincoln
    3. Les Miserables
    4. Argo
    5. Wreck it Ralph
    6. Django Unchained
    7. Zero Dark Thirty
    8. Avengers
    9. Looper
    10. Dark Knight Rises

    r/u: 21 Jump Street, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Cloud Atlas, Moonrise Kingdom, Secret world of Arietty, Skyfall

  38. GexL says:

    Lex, yes, movies are storytelling through visual means, but they’re nothing without first nailing the story part. Get a clue.

  39. StellaPD says:

    I live in Milwaukee and saw Holy Motors legally. It was the December member’s only screening for the Milwaukee Film Club.

  40. Gus says:

    I live in LA and saw it in a regular theater. It’s been playing for weeks, and -gasp- millions of people live here. Saw all the films on my list legally, several of which have lower grosses than HM.

  41. Don R. Lewis says:

    I liked much of HOLY MOTORS but like any anthology film, I was bored/disinterested in other sections. I still say I liked it but if I’m to be honest, much of it bored me and I couldn’t in good personal conscience put it in my best of. Same with THE MASTER.

    and tbunny- I agree with not needing to have every mystery spelled out but when you combine vagueness for the sake of being vague with downright DUMB moments/plot twists/characters, it’s tough to be on-board for the whole thing.

  42. samguy says:

    I’m so happy that you put “Ted” in your top 10 that all I can say is “giggidy”

    “It was a matter of time before someone went Joan Crawford on that kid.”

  43. Gus says:

    I agree about motors. Found lots of the imagery novel and amazing but overall I was bored and detached. Didn’t care about anything happening in it for nearly the entire film.

  44. StellaPD says:

    Same here Gus. The lead is fantastic and the musical interlude is awesome, but the majority of the rest did nothing for me.

  45. sdp says:

    movielocke, I know for a fact that Holy Motors played legally in both Nashville, TN, and Asheville, NC. Box Office Mojo says it is currently in 14 theaters, and at one point was in as many as 29. It’s probably been in more than 29 unique theaters, too, because films like that tend to play for only a week or two in smaller markets with limited art house screens. It’s one of the most hyped films of the year in online cinephile circles, so it’s probably safe to say that many of the “forum/comments” people who are raving it made a point to see it at their local art house. Do a damn Google search before getting sanctimonious next time.

  46. Lex says:

    ZERO DARK THIRTY is HEAT. Or THE INSIDER. Or I guess some would say ZODIAC. It’s that kind of high-intensity surveillance procedural. It’s my favorite movie of the year, and I think it works best if you’re a Michael Mann or Scott brothers fan, or the Soderbergh of Traffic– Silence of the Lambs meets Heat meets Black Hawk Down.

    It’s also already been op-ed’d to death BEFORE IT’S EVEN RELEASED in 99% of the country, so much so that I wouldn’t have any energy to defend or even discuss it much. Once “wonks” get involved with discussing cinema, it’s over; Like I don’t care what Andrew Sullivan or John McCain says about a MOVIE, they know nothing about movies.

    But maybe it’s a karmic returning of the favor, since all year round movie critics play political expert, and it’s almost as annoying.

  47. molly'sdad says:

    Anghus – Best analysis I have read of ZD30, which I didn’t care for, and not for the obvious political reasons. If Bigelow/Boal were after a Battle of Algiers-like feeling, it didn’t work for me. I particularly agree with your comparison to ARGO. Two close industry friends of mine – one loved ZD30 and the other hated it – both said they felt parts of ZD30 were badly directed and poorly acted. I felt the same way but am clearly in the minority. Reminds me that reactions to films are always personal: after a screening of AMOUR, a young woman I didn’t know, who was clearly very upset and confused by the film, followed me to my car shouting: “What did you think of that awful movie? What the hell was it about?! Why on earth did someone make that?!” I said I loved it and got in my car. She kept shouting at others in the parking lot: “What on earth was that about?!!! What an awful film.” One man’s ceiling….

  48. Lex says:

    Yeah, HOLY MOTORS has kicked around LA for a couple months…. usually for one-week runs at random theaters before it’s kicked down to the next level of “where the fuck is THAT?” indie theaters; It seems to have TANKED everywhere, moseying from the Nuart to the Chinese 6 to Cinefamily or Silent Movie (WHATEVER THAT IS) on to some random Laemmle’s, now it’s at one broom closet downtown… Everyone who’s taken the plunge here has reported being the only one in the theater… Definitely a case of movie bloggers trying to make something happen that nobody else really “gets.”

    I didn’t see it, because that thing in the trailer where Cheddar Bob from 8 Mile is chomping on flowers in a Mime costume is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen in a movie.

  49. palmtree says:

    The questions in Prometheus are annoying and unending, but that’s part of its charm. Few filmmakers can luxuriate in so complete and fascinating a world in such a batshit way. A beautiful failure…on the road to greener pastures, I hope.

    CLOUD ATLAS was terrible. Or to parse it, the Tom Twyker scenes were good to excellent and the Wachowski scenes were shyte. The ugly, mediocre makeup jobs were distracting and offensive. The absence of any real through-line tying these stories together was also a disappointment. I honestly get what a great experience it is for some people, but I can’t be on board for that one.

  50. Gus says:

    I was one of two people in the theater for Motors (Larmmle in Santa Monica). I spent some time before the show trying to estimate the number of seats in the theater (it was the biggest room in the house). I think it held something like 425 people? Rough guess. And this was the 9:50p screening on a weekday.

  51. Lex says:

    The “repression and revolt” through-line in Cloud Atlas couldn’t really be much clearer. If anything, the movie pounds it a little too hard at the end with Sturgess’ speech.

  52. Don R. Lewis says:

    There was 6 walkouts at my HOLY MOTORS screening. 4 were teen girls who I have NO idea what they were doing in there to begin with. The crooked penis came out and out the door they went.

  53. Lex says:

    “4 teen girls.”

    Were they hot?

  54. palmtree says:

    I meant through-line as in character development. I thought the whole point of the same actors was to show their “soul” developing through different times and incarnations. But that link was rather tenuous in my view.

  55. Don R. Lewis says:

    Super hot. But they were put off by Denis Levants small, crooked penis so I dunno Lex, they might not have been fans of yours.

  56. Krillian says:

    The Master is one where I enjoy reading people’s dissections of the movie, but I didn’t necessarily like it myself.

    How could the nude scene in the Master have been real? I figured it was Freddie seeing what Dodd sees, even as he pretends to be this religious leader, and then the wife sees that Freddie sees Dodd for who he really is.

  57. chris says:

    Agreed, “JBD.” “Perks” has its heart in the right place but it feels totally phony to me, bits and pieces of “Ordinary People” and a million John Hughes movies pasted together. (One tiny indication of how contrived it is: The kids who are totally clued into ’70s/’80s music spend the whole movie trying to figure out the perfect but obscure song they heard a snatch of, and it turns out to be pretty much the seminal ’70s/’80s song by pretty much the seminal artist of that time, Bowie? Bogus.)

  58. Lex says:

    I grew up in Pittsburgh, class of 1991, and NOBODY listened to Bowie in Pittsburgh then… It’s a total AC/DC, “Get the Led Out” bar-rock town. If the movie has a flaw, it’s that nobody looks, acts or sounds remotely 1992, or remotely Pittsburgh. But the emotions are all spot-on.

    Maybe if you’re a little bit older or a little bit younger, it doesn’t hit your nostalgic sweet spot (even with the botched details.) Christ knows I wouldn’t well up at a movie mooning over being from Arizona in 2003.

  59. leahnz says:

    Happy New Year to you, too, bulldog (and to All), wishing you and yours good health and happiness in 2013. Hey, I can totally understand why you (and people in general) wouldn’t care for ‘the Master’, I actually saw it twice and found it something of an acquired taste, it’s not a pleasant film (Joaquin is terrific).

    Hey movieman, hope all is well with you and wishing you the best for 2013 man – speaking of the phoenix bros, it is THE ‘Dark Blood’ on my list! it’s pretty borderline whether the movie could get a proper threatrical release, perhaps a limited arthouse type of thing, fingers crossed; there are a couple crucial scenes missing covered by voice-over narration by Sluizer (which weirdly works better than it might sound), but the film just manages to stand alone – it’s a beautifully shot and performed bizarre unsettling modern western/character piece, and River nails it as the charismatic psychotic hermit boy, really different for him, not a complex role but he’s like a live wire on screen, elemental. in spite of its heat-shimmery vistas it’s a cold, uncomfortable downer of a film, just my cup tea haha (so weird and thrilling – and deeply saddening – to have seen two new river films in 2012, ‘My own private river’ and ‘dark blood’, I know there won’t be any more).

    re: the horribly-written prometheus, there’s a good 90 minute movie lurking in there somewhere, with a few genuinely interesting and scary scenes and a whole lot of boring nonsensical bullshit, i’d love to take a scalpel to that puppy and have a go at shaping a good creepy story out of that bloated corpse.

  60. chris says:

    We’re supposed to believe those not-90s-seeming kids would be listening to Bowie, Lex (along with Morrissey, etc.), not AC/DC. And, if so, they’d all be scrawling the lyrics to the Bowie song, “Heroes,” all over each others’ Trapper Keepers, not desperately trying to figure out what it is. (Plus, how hard is it to figure out the title of that song? It’s all over the chorus.) As I said, just one detail of many dozens that is wrong.

  61. Lex says:

    I don’t know, the guy who wrote the book, to whom this all happened, also wrote the script, AND directed the movie… however that happens, but that would make it about as TRUE AN ACTUAL life-to-film arc as humanly possible.

  62. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Chris absolutely. That whole Bowie song just seemed so wrong I started to think it must be intentional as a way for the author to show how out-of-touch these retro-lovin kids really are.

    Lex what really bugs me is what Chris says, its heart is in the right place but the whole film is just full of things that kept pulling me out and revealing an old dude plugging away on his screenplay, trying to remember what it was like to be a kid. I should add I really wanted to like this film. Some of my favourite films are these fish out of highschool ones like The Chocolate War which integrate music so perfectly into the narrative from the period.

    Anghus not arguing with you about the flawed screenplay of Prometheus. It’s full of silly stuff, however like Lex, a film can resonant with me on other levels and I can overlook some dialogue missteps and questions not answered. I thought it such a handsome big picture that immersed me into a universe where every square artifically created inch took me away from the real world. And you keep making these proclaimations that because you’ve never met someone they don’t exist. That’s such a foolsh thing to say. You don’t think there is a rabid Alien fanbase? I guess you never lived through the laserdisc period.

  63. movieman says:

    I’ve never even heard of “My Own Private River,” Leah.
    (I’m guessing it’s a doc about River P.?)
    Glad to hear that “Dark Blood” was mostly salvageable.
    Which begs the question: What took them so damn long then?
    I hope it eventually makes it to dvd (at least!) in the U.S.

  64. Don R. Lewis says:

    PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is fantastic and caught me (and almost everyone) by surprise. How can you get some kind of false note out of that movie?? Unless you’re a cynical nitpicker waiting for something phony to happen so you can jump on it. It’s the guys life story and he grew up steeped in Hughes movies like many of us from that generation. A pastiche of real emotion mixed with the “Hughsian”is a natural extension. Great film.

  65. Bulldog68 says:

    Skyfall gets Producers Guild nod. They have been 5 for 5 the last 5 years with the eventual Oscar winner.

  66. anghus says:

    ” And you keep making these proclaimations that because you’ve never met someone they don’t exist. That’s such a foolsh thing to say. You don’t think there is a rabid Alien fanbase? I guess you never lived through the laserdisc period.”

    JBD, i’ve been hanging out online in film forums and chat rooms since 1997. I’ve seen every permeation of fanboy insanity about Star Wars, Superman, Batman, and the vast majority of iconic geek properties. I’ve never heard one person bemoan any of the alien films that have come out since then due to a rabid devotion to the original two films.

    I’ve heard in depth discussions on the quality of 3 & 4, but not the kind of freakish devotion people have to Star Wars. I don’t think a single line of criticism i heard about Prometheus came from people who complained it about impacting the Alien series.

    Everyone i know complained about it because it was dumb. Not because it had a poor reflection on the Alien franchise. People don’t seem to have the same kind of devotion and obsessive entitlement over Alien like they do with Star Wars.

    So to dismiss Prometheus criticism as fanboy ranting is just naive on your part. There is a lot more criticism being lobbed at the film than from the typical JS Partisan types who obsess over franchise entitlement.

    Im not saying you cant enjoy the film. Yup, it looked fantastic and there were a couple of really cool scenes. It’s still dumb as a box of hammers.

    This is my favorite take on the subject:

  67. scooterzz says:

    movieman — ‘my own private river’ is a pretty terrific collaboration of james franco and gus van sant…nicw little valentine to phoenix…

    re: ‘perks’ … i think chobosky did a really impressive job adapting his book for the screen and then casting/directing…i’m kinda hoping against hope that he gets an adaptation nomination….

  68. jennab says:

    Looks like a solid list, Dave (except This is 40 :). So many of these movies left to see; hope Amour makes it out here (to the North Bay).

    Gotta side with Team Anghus on Prometheus, which I found nearly incomprehensible, not to mention, it looked super-cheesy, e.g., production design/cinematography …how is that possible with Ridley Scott directing?

    Gus, Magic Mike? Really? That movie was so bad, me & 3 gal pals watched it VOD…I mean, ready with our popcorn and everything…only to turn if off halfway through. SO boring, and whose studio mogul daughter was the gawd-awful female lead? What happened to the Soderbergh of Outta Sight & Brokovich?

    Found most stuff mildly to majorly disappointing in some way…thought Argo fulfilled its ambitions nicely. Having been there a few years before the Revolution, Affleck did a great job capturing Tehran during that era. Nice suspense and sense of scale on what must have been a fairly limited budget. Thankful there was at least 1 remotely sympathetic Iranian character.

    Have a feeling I will agree w/Anghus on ZD30, but I will still see it. Must see The Master when it comes out on VOD.

    Happy New Years, y’all!

  69. movieman says:

    Scooter- Outside of (I”m assuming) film festivals, where can you see “My Own Private River”?
    Is it getting a (U.S.) theatrical and/or dvd release in 2013?
    It definitely sounds like something I’d be interested in.

  70. scooterzz says:

    movieman — i got a screener about this time last year so i could do an interview with van sant…i just assumed it found an eventual release via one of the streams but don’t find it listed anywhere…

  71. Gunnar says:

    I would like your guys help for the top ten DP30s of the year. Anyone want to start?

  72. anghus says:

    “I would like your guys help for the top ten DP30s of the year. Anyone want to start?”

    im guessing sanj.

  73. leahnz says:

    movieman, scoot’s already kinda summed it up but ‘MOPR’ is a ‘retelling’ of My Own Private Idaho by Franco, who Van Sant allowed to go through all the unused dailies and outtakes from MOPI and put together an alternate story not using any of the same takes used in MOPI, you’d absolutely love it. I wasn’t aware screeners for it were widely available – Franco has said a DVD release won’t happen due to conflicts with the studio regarding MOPI (and I saw it on the down-low, won’t say any more but I was allowed to watch it but I don’t physically have a copy…hey scooterzz, any chance you’d like to copy that puppy and send me one? you have no idea how grateful i’d be, indebted to you forever and all that good mushy stuff, yours in christ, from me).

    Anyway hopefully Dark Blood will at least get a DVD release – i think they’re trying hard for one; i got mine via Sluizer Productions because I donated to help finish the movie when they were in the fundraising process; Sluizer had a sudden illness/near death experience that prompted him to want to finish the project as best he could and he did a damn fine job of it, really.

  74. sanj says:

    i already posted my top dp/30 of the year and zero people replied. there’s a lot depending on who your favorite
    actor / direct / producter / musician is .

    DP should be outside tower records signing autographed bluray copies of the dp/30’s .

  75. scooterzz says:

    leah — as i remember, the screener was heavily watermarked and returned at the time of my interview… i had a really good relationship with phoenix back in the day and that was probably how i made the cut for screener/interview…sorry…

  76. scooterzz says:

    okay, this was from the press release sent in February of 2011 (so, it was two years ago, not last year):

    “Premiering this weekend at the GAGOSIAN GALLERY in Beverly Hills is UNFINISHED, a collaboration between writer/director GUS VAN SANT and multi-talented JAMES FRANCO that consists of two films. First, ENDLESS IDAHO: a 12-hour revisitation of VAN SANT’S 1991 award winning film MY PRIVATE IDAHO starring RIVER PHOENIX and KEANU REEVES. With the director’s blessing, FRANCO edited outtakes, deleted scenes, alternate takes and behind-the-scenes footage into an epic 12-hour experience. The second film is MY OWN PRIVATE RIVER: an extensive and compelling portrait of the late actor and his portrayal of a sensitive street hustler. With an original score by MICHAEL STIPE and previously unseen footage blah, blah, blah…”

    i didn’t see the 12 hour version of ‘mopi’ but that was when i saw the screener and did the interviews…

  77. JBD says:

    Angus never said it was just fanboy ranting. It just felt that way to me. All online commentary feels like fanboy ranting to me though. My expectations were zero do maybe that helped me overlook its weaknesses.

    Magic mike I think is one of the best films soderbergh has ever made. To me if felt like a beautiful throwback to a 70s character study. And that awkward female lead was smokin hot and perfect for the film.

  78. Gunnar says:

    I am guessing no one replied because they generally go unwatched.

    Now, videos of cats playing with balls, those get watched.

  79. sanj says:

    Gunnar – if you go with the most popular – you’ll end up with stuff from 2011 and earlier.. with actors there are
    those who’ve done interviews before so you know what you might get – then there are totally new interviews so expect something else….it depends on how many you’ve watched and
    what your favorite movies are and if you actually want to
    watch new movies you haven’t heard about …
    the quick solution might – a dozen dp/30’s and watch 5 minutes each . a lot of people have a lot of interesting things to say at different times during the interview.

    have you seen – DP/30: Django Unchained, actor Samuel L Jackson ? try it . entertaining.

    Kim Kardashian’s baby is going to get more views by the generic public than any dp/30. sad but true.

  80. leahnz says:

    oh that’s ok scoot it was worth a try! my quest to have my own copy of MOPR continues…

  81. cadavra says:

    As usual, Lex pigeonholes me without thinking. The P.C. police? Seriously? The man whose entire life can be summed up by BLAZING SADDLES?

    To make things crystal clear: I have absolutely no problem with off-color jokes…as long as they are in fact jokes. The problem with most comedies today is that all that farting, barfing, ball-kicking, et al is just done for its own sake, without any rationale. To quote Leno, “Where’s the joke? I can’t find the joke!” HYSTERIA is one of the dirtiest movies to come out this year, but I found it side-splitting, because there was actually a reason for all the smutty humor. And TWO BROKE GIRLS, which is almost nothing BUT sex jokes, is one of my favorite sitcoms.

    BTW, Lex, please don’t see my short when it’s completed. It’s in B&W and 1.33, takes place in 1938, and has actual jokes in it.

  82. Lex says:

    Don’t Trust the B >>> Two Broke Girls.

  83. movieman says:

    Leah and Scooter: Well, there’s always hoping, right?
    I’ll just add “Dark Blood” and “My Own Private River” to my personal wish-list of movies I hope to be able to see one day.
    Welles’ “Other Side of the Wind” has been topping that list for a couple of decades now, lol.

  84. Js Partisan says:

    “So to dismiss Prometheus criticism as fanboy ranting is just naive on your part. There is a lot more criticism being lobbed at the film than from the typical JS Partisan types who obsess over franchise entitlement.”

    In what world do you live that this sentence makes any god damn sense? Franchise entitlement? This is so fucking stupid on so many levels because if I ever felt entitled to anything, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

    Nevertheless, I love Sir Ridley, he’s one of my fave directors, and I could spot his shots Lex, but “Prometheus” is just a fucking dumb movie. The characters, who should be written to have some god damn sense, are written to be morons. How is it that the guy who provides the team with GPS data of the Engineer’s lair, has no idea how to read that data to get out of the lair? That and how two grown people run in the shadow of a fucking crashing spaceship instead of outside of it, are two of the many reasons “Prometheus” is just a dumb fucking movie.

    Also, “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a shit movie for much of the reasons JBD listed. The whole swerve at the end is so lacking in connective tissue to the beginning of the movie, that it’s hard to take seriously. If it were set up earlier then I could buy it, but it comes out of nowhere. Out of fucking nowhere. I will let them slide on the use of “Heroes” though. There’s a different song in the book that they could not get the rights for the movie. It’s a really obscure song and why they decided to replace it with “Heroes,” is just confusing, but could be explained by everyone involved believing 20 somethings had never heard “Heroes” before.

  85. Triple Option says:

    Even though I saw way more than ten movies, I don’t really feel like I could compose a “Top Ten” list, if you know what I mean? I liked the first half of Silver Linings Playbook but closed out being a run of the mill rom-com. Argo was entertaining but some the most tense moments seemed manufactured, if not eye-roll prompting.

    To me, I’ll think of all the disappointments this year. Promo, Abe the Vampire Slayer, Spidey and a few other times I remember walking out of the theater feeling let down.

    It’s not that I hated everything and there are still some films I need to see but I think it was a fairly “meh” year for me.

    As far as positive experiences go, Zero Dark and The Raid: Redemption are the two films that stick out most for me over the past year.

  86. hcat says:

    With you on being let down on Spidey, by nearly all the heros actually (thought Bats was the best of the lot though am not saddened that there will not be a future Nolan entry). Of all the films I have seen this year (and I still have Many Many Many to go) Moonrise Kingdom keeps perculating in my head. Not a huge Anderson fan but by centering the story around adolescents he was able to put his usual theme of miserable people surrounded by wonder to better use than he did in previous films. I usually prefer the more bombastic big emotion stuff but MK hit me right in the sweet spot.

  87. Js Partisan says:

    Compared to the previous Spider-man films, I have no idea how “Amazing Spider-man” can disappoint anyone. It’s such a true and honest Spidey movie and in line with how Parker has always been portrayed in the comics. Of course, he’s dead in the comics now due to Marvel being ran by a bunch of imbeciles, but he at least finally has a quality movie to his name.

    Also, the farther Nolan can get in literal distance from Batman is a good thing. TDKR is really a turd sandwich that Anne Hathaway and JGL saves from being truly awful. I just hope Warners takes their time with the JLA because they need to get those characters right, and not screw them up in their first time on screen.

    “Moonrise Kingdom” is a tremendous film and needs it’s Criterion Collection BD already, and that goes for “The Life Aquatic” as well.

  88. hcat says:

    I think it ranks above the first and third of the Raimi’s, and did like the perfs of Garfield and Stone, but was bored once the suit came on. Feel the same way about the Iron Mans, these are action films that are more exciting when its just the two leads sitting over a plate of strawberries.

    Am cautiously optimistic about Man of Steel, if they pilfer the right parts from Superman from all seasons the way they pilfered Dark Knight Returns they might make something special. But I am not looking forward to a JLA. Of course thats because I am a grump who only read Marvel and see no compelling reason to see Flash and Hawkman onscreen.

  89. Mike says:

    I found Amazing Spider-Man really boring, as well. I can’t fault anyone for liking it more, but personally I thought Raimi’s at least had some personality. Avengers suffered from the same problem for me. There’s so little personality and unique vision being put forward by these big Marvel movies. They feel paint-by-numberish.

    Nolan made Batman his own, which at least kept things suspenseful.

    I’m with hcat on Moonrise Kingdom. I haven’t liked Anderson’s films for a while, but really enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom, because of the focus on adolescents.

  90. Js Partisan says:

    I completely disagree about Raimi and personality. His Spidey movies were just goofy compared to anything that’s a part of the Marvel Cinematic universe (and we all know Spidey will be eventually). They are what comic book movies should be, for the most part, but Nolan had one great movie, one really good movie, and one turd sandwich. I guess that’s not bad, but he never understood Batman. Here’s hoping they right that wrong with the next franchise.

    HC, the Flash is a wonderful character, while Hawkman has nothing on Hawkgirl.

  91. Lex says:

    Wasn’t it four years ago when JS was one step from threatening the lives of anyone who dared speak even the MILDEST criticism of Dark Knight?

    And now Dark Knight Rises, which is basically the same movie in most regards, give or take your preference in villains, is a “turd sandwich” and Nolan “doesn’t understand Batman”?

    How does that work? Christ, you’re fickle.

  92. AdamL says:

    Has there actually been a single superhero movie that still holds up on repeat viewings? I mean really really holds up? For all the fanfare there was over Dark Knight, if you rewatch it it’s not actualy all that good aside from Heath Ledger. TDKR was complete trash and inifitely worse written than Prometheus. I can’t imagine the Spiderman reboot is any good – the last lot were very ordinary indeed. Good reviews for The Avengers but I can’t bring myself to watch it for some reason, despite being a Whedon fan. Would love a ban on superhero films, sequels and prequels for one summer just to see what they’d come up with.

  93. Gus says:

    I agree that Spidey and TDKR (and Prometheus, while I’m at it) were the year’s big disappointments. While Prometheus set things in motion it never addressed, the writing in TDKR had no problem explaining its plot, but, surprise, it was inane. Seeing films like that of such enormous scale and unified style that have such incredibly brain-dead central conceits is disappointing to the point of being depressing.

    Spoilers, but I’m referring to *all* the police going underground, then getting out and just marching to their deaths. Endless fistfighting with Bane for no reason, the illogic of the Stock Exchange episode, the climbing/jumping inconsistencies in the pit, etc, etc. Lord, it goes on and on.

  94. christian says:

    “It’s such a true and honest Spidey movie and in line with how Parker has always been portrayed in the comics. ”

    Minus the Daily Bugle and J.Jonah Jameson. Etc.

  95. Mark says:

    So glad to see both Ted and Wallflower in your top 10. A good solid raunchy heartfelt comedy deserves credit, and each year there seems to be one that makes my own list — Bridesmaids, I Love You Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall — and this year it’s Ted. I am about serious film too — Lincoln, Beasts of Southern Wild, Argo, Amour would all make my list — but a quality comedy is hard to beat. I commend you for including this one.

  96. Joe Straatmann says:

    Going back a few comments to Triple Option, that’s about where I am with this year. A lot of three-and-a-half-star movies and I don’t think one four star that really got to me. Granted, I got exceptionally busy after Skyfall and when they dropped a giant load of 2 hour, 30 minute+ movies on my ass, I really didn’t have time for any of them, so starting with Lincoln, there are some very big holes in what I have and haven’t watched. But a lot of movies, a few that caught got some really big hype, I liked a lot, but didn’t totally wow me.

    I’m an easy sell on Bond, and there’s plenty to be thrilled with about Skyfall, but right after Silva has his Hannibal Lector moment, the movie gets a little weaker and it’s not bad (Though the Home Alone set up to the climax got an unintended laugh from me), it’s just not as strong in the spot where I felt the movie needed to be its strongest. Argo was really good, but it had a lot of parts where the elements that were made to ratchet up the tension were artificial in the midst of Affleck trying to have an Alan J. Pakula style. It’s not really the chase at the end, though I do have issues with that, but it’s more stuff like the maid who may or may not rat out the guests at the embassy. Amazing Spider-Man worked really well for me and it was a movie that more suited my tastes than Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, but it has a lot of soft spots and places where you could tell they edited around some important things. Looper is one of those movies that I had a good time while I watched it, but it has a forgettable quality to it. Like in 2 years, how many of us are going to talk about it or even remember it? Depends on how well it plays on TV, I guess.

    2012 has a lot of movies like that for me. A lot of stuff that fills up the “good-really good” pile and I can’t think of a lot of great stuff. On the other hand, there weren’t a lot of movies on my bad list. The only straight-up terrible thing I saw was Silent Hill: Revelation, and I didn’t actively dislike it until the last 15 minutes, it was pretty much expected, and you really have to be a Silent Hill fan to know just how much they fucked up, so if you’re just a casual person, you’re better off with the, “Tha’ hell did I just watch? it’s like they spent the whole movie explaining everything and it felt like they explained nothing” reaction than, “Seriously, the character who is first seen in the games as raping things is now the heroic defender of the hero? No…… No……”

    Prometheus was a movie I was disappointed in, but I still liked. As much as there are stupid things that wouldn’t even pass a script doctoring of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, I found there was enough good to counter-balance. David is a very interesting character and one where they did ambiguity correctly. A lot of people just call him an asshole, but he’s built to be a human without an innate sense of humanity. At the moment with the drink, he IS technically giving the other person what he wants, and I don’t think he’s doing it out of spite, but he is giving the person technically what he wants. In any case, for the sequel……. roadtrip buddy movie. DO IT!

  97. Triple Option says:

    My problem w/the new Spidey was that I was constantly reminded of the first one w/Tobey McGuire. I’m willing to cut Nolan some slack – wow, that sounds really pretentious – with Dark Knight Rises because by just wrapping up a series while still setting up the franchise for future films, it really limits what he & the writer(s) would be able to do. It’s funny, cuz in some ways I think he’s improved on each of his Bat films but in other ways, I’ve liked parts of the previous installments better.

    Which brings me to AdamL’s question on could I watch a superhero film over and over, I’d say yes to Batman Begins, Spidey 2, and a couple of the X-Men films. I can understand liking some yet not really being motivated to watch them again but a few if they’re on cable or if someone is over and looking for something to do, I wouldn’t mind loading it up for the 20th time. I want to see the new Oz movie but crap if they’re not trying to shove another origins/genesis story in our face. I did like the trailer to the next Ironman film, which I have to say thought I2 was rather pedestrian and really was just entertained but not bowled over by the first, but if it weren’t to come out for another year I wouldn’t boo hoo. I’d love it if studios or dependents pumped out 5 more $30M films each year as opposed to one $150M jobber. Those $20M-$30M films were the ones I typically found most enjoyable. A nice mix of solid production values while being less tied to formula for story & execution. But just like when all the best bowl games were on New Year’s Day, those days have sadly gone way away.

  98. Js Partisan says:

    Lex, like most posters on this blog, you decided to IGNORE WHAT PEOPLE WRITE TO MAKE YOUR FUNNY! Seriously, TDK is a great movie. TDKR is a turd sandwich. That’s the end of the discussion but if you would like to discuss “Black Rain” shots in “Prometheus” then please, go right ahead.

    Christian, you do know that those characters are not as important as getting Peter and Gwen right, right?

    Triple, if you really dislike the Raimi films, then you do not have that problem with “Amazing Spider-man.” Raimi’s films are just so disappointing, when you realize how they do not even come close to capturing the true essence of Spidey from the comic.

    AdamL, you are not a Whedon fan if you are ignoring “The Avengers.” Seriously. Also, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is re-watchable as are “The Incredibles,” “Ghost World,” “Road to Perdition,” “History of Violence,” “American Splendor,” The Dark Knight Trilogy (Anne makes the turd sandwich rewatchable), “Amazing Spider-man,” and MANY MANY MORE! They are just movies that are based around hero stories, and they are the oldest stories we have.

  99. cadavra says:

    DON’T TRUST THE B is a very good show, yes–and Ritter really commands attention–but it’s playing in a different sandbox than 2 BROKE GIRLS.

    My problem with SPIDEY 4–apart from having to endure the whole origin story again–was Garfield. How is this tall, hunky stud with great hair the class nerd? Maguire you can understand getting stuffed into a locker; in the real world, Garfield would be banging the entire cheerleading squad and probably all his female teachers under 40.

  100. Rashad says:

    I agree with Anghus on ZDT very well made re-enactment. The only real moment of true life was the raid.

  101. YancySkancy says:

    Haven’t seen AMAZING SPIDER-MAN yet, but do they offer some kind of physics-based explanation for how Peter Parker is able to get all that hair up under his skin-tight mask?

  102. Pete B. says:

    Gotta laugh at Cadavra’s comment about ‘Garfield would be banging the entire cheerleading squad and probably all his female teachers under 40′. When we saw the first trailer for TAS, the wife leaned over and whispered, “why did they choose such an ugly guy?”

    And although its been discussed repeatedly – TAS didn’t get Peter Parker ‘right’. PP was never a surly emo character.

  103. hcat says:

    The most rewatchable superhero movie and still the champ is the original Donner Superman. Both epic and intimate in all the right ways.

    One of the most interesting aspects of it is how they updated things to modern (well, then the 70’s) times. Superman with his Truth, Justice, American Way, never tell a lie honor is seen as just as much of a square as Clark Kent. And beneath the then cutting edge special effects the screwball comedy aspects of Ned Beatty’s performance and the Front Page-ish newspaper chatter between Kent and Lane harkens back to the time that Superman was created. While it would certainly be a bad commercial decision to mess with the properties in this way I would love to see the heroes portrayed in the style of their creation. Give me a one-off Black and White Batman film noir, give me a Seven-ups style Luke Cage movie, or a Fantastic Voyage looking cheapie with the Fantastic Four. First Class did this to some extent, but didn’t deliver the actual First Class whom had all been used elsewhere, and was shot like a modern movie that happened to be set in the sixties.

    I know I was the only one thinking this but when watching Avengers I couldn’t help but think the effects are actually too good and diminishing my enjoyment of it. It was such an over the top kitchen sink junk science premise, I would have enjoyed it more if they had embraced the b-movie 60s drive in aspect of it (which honestly seems to be the root of all Marvel comics) and shown a few wires or obvious foam heads on the villians.

  104. hcat says:

    Anyone want to put out the flip side of these lists and talk about disappointments? There were certainly worst films of the year but my biggest letdown had to be Damsels in Distress. Loved Whitman’s early work, glad to see him work again, but these people didn’t really seem to inhabit the real world, it was so off-kilter that the jokes that were there got mangled by the strange dead-pan delivery he had everyone employ.

    And I am almost ashamed to admit I was letdown by The Campaign. Heard great things about Roach’s HBO films and thought this might include something other than the gentlest satire, but I should really have not been suprised when I sat down to see a Ferrel/Galifanakis film and got exactly that.

  105. Krillian says:

    I was disappointed by The Campaign. Seemed ripe for smart satire but that wasn’t the route they wanted to go. They wanted mallet-on-the-melon humor mixed with “the Koch brothers are evil” preaching.

  106. Mike says:

    I still watch Tim Burton’s Batman and think fondly of it. It’s such a weird take on a superhero, but not so weird and out there as the sequel (which I also like). But yeah, Donner’s Superman holds up very well, too. Bits and pieces of all the recent Marvels are good, too.

    Let me second the notion of a black and white Batman noir.

  107. palmtree says:

    For years people were saying Unbreakable was a pretty great movie. I’m wondering if it holds up.

  108. Foamy Squirrel says:


    The pool scene by itself is laughable, but Jackson’s waffles about how heroes are defined by the villains around them makes no sense in the context of the final scene.

    But then again it’s a superhero movie without any superheroes. (And what is M Night’s fixation with water?)

  109. Rashad says:

    Unbreakable is a masterpiece. And what are you talking about the final scene? Mr. Glass’ purpose was to find out that the opposite of himself existed. His existence no has purpose. How does that not make sense?

  110. leahnz says:

    I’ll second hcat and Mike re: Donner’s Supes and Burton’s original ‘I’m batman’ with the WTF casting of Keaton that worked so well still holding up today in a classic sense — like hcat said Donner’s Superman is a terrific meld of the kinda dorky comedic comicbook elements with unflagging earnestness (thanks to Reeves), heart, perfect production design and the (then) cutting edge effects; and Burton’s batman is such a distinctive blend of dark and funky with some great perfs and bold production design, still the best superhero movies around for my money.

    (I recently saw ‘Unbreakable’ again on late night TV and I have to disagree with foamy, it’s a fascinating little well-woven understated character drama of a superhero movie, I’m not sure I’d even classify it as a superhero movie but I wouldn’t argue the point)

  111. christian says:

    The opening scene of Unbreakable with Willis trying to pick up that woman is his finest piece of acting ever.

  112. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Mr. Glass’ purpose was to find out that the opposite of himself existed. His existence now has purpose.

    No he doesn’t. He defined himself well prior to his interaction with Bruce Willis’ character. His entire motivation is based on a laughably faulty assumption, and he seems to purposely ignore any other “miracle survivors” that appear in the paper regularly, let alone investigating disasters that occur on a daily basis.

    The character stuff is great, the “superhero” stuff is inane and makes no sense.

  113. Rashad says:

    What are you talking about? How do you know how he defined himself prior to Willis’ existence? He explicitly states why, and how he did it. He didn’t even believe Willis was the “one” during his questioning at first. For all we know, he could have met a bunch of people and asked them similar things.

  114. Don R. Lewis says:

    UNBREAKABLE is fantastic. Rich, interesting characters and I think it’s the best superhero movie ever.

    I saw NOT FADE AWAY last night and WOW! Great movie!! I loved almost every single thing about it….go see it if you like music and movies!

  115. christian says:

    Comment Redacted

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